RFL plans for uncertainty due to pandemic restrictions

With the UK the government likely to take action early this week to ban public events that attract significant attendances, RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer says player welfare, competition integrity and keeping clubs solvent will be at the heart of thinking about how Rugby League should deal with the coronavirus crisis.
While most sports have put fixtures on hold, Rimmer defended the RFL’s decision to carry on with matches, saying: “We have followed Government guidelines, and unlike football, we have had no positive test results for the virus.
“We’ve spoken to the Government regularly – more than once a day – over the last couple of weeks. That has ensured we’ve circulated all the directives from Government to clubs on measures to take to minimise the possibility of contagion.”
Rimmer also said Leeds Rhinos could face a sanction after unilaterally calling off Saturday’s scheduled Super League match at Catalans Dragons, which was to have been played behind closed doors.
The Rhinos unilaterally elected not to travel after one of their players showed symptoms of coronavirus (he has since tested negative).
“It’s not an easy scenario, and the board will look at everything around the case. It will follow due process,” he said.
Rimmer accepted that, going forward, fixtures may be suspended, depending on what the Government decides.
“Of course it’s a possibility,” he said in an interview with Radio Five Live.
“The Government have been very good in the way they have handled this. The communication we have had has been first class.
“The flow of information has been very useful, and clearly it (a suspension) may happen.
“The financial impact would be huge. Clubs base business models on having a certain number of home games. It is the case in most sports, so we are not in isolation, and we will be as pragmatic as possible.
“As well as the health of the general public, clearly, we need to take into consideration player welfare issues, the integrity of competitions and the solvency of clubs.”
When asked whether the failure to fulfil the Sky Sports broadcasting contract could mean that Sky reclaims some of the money it has paid for the contract, Rimmer was ambivalent.
“We have also spoken to our commercial and broadcast partners, who are understanding of the situation,” he said.
“There are no hard deadlines.
“We have circulated a number of different models to clubs and we need to sit down with them and find the best way forward, which we will do early this week.
“As a sport, we have been resilient throughout our history, and that will continue.
“Of course, we face a test, but collectively, we will find a way forward.
“We have to be realistic about the situation the sport is in. Nevertheless the sport has shown itself to be very resilient over the last 125 years and hopefully we can find a way forward.”